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Posts Tagged ‘botanical garden of Brussels’

At several locations during this visit to Brussels, I have spotted large blue-and-green dragonflies flying patrols back and forth over the water. They reminded me a lot of the Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) that I see fairly often in my home area of Northern Virginia. I suspected correctly that Common Green Darners are a North American species and that the dragonflies that I was observing were European “cousins.”

It was not hard to establish that these are Emperor dragonflies (Anax imperator), a species that is also referred to as “Blue Emperor.” Because of their size and the fact that their territory seemed to be pretty small, it was easy to track the Blue Emperor dragonflies visually when they were flying. I had to wait a long time, however, for them to perch and then move quickly to get a shot when they did so. Their rest breaks frequently lasted only a few seconds and then they would begin to fly again.

I really like the blue and green color combination and the way that these colors coexist in both the bodies and in the eyes of these beautiful dragonflies.

Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), like this one that I observed at the Botanical Garden here in Brussels, look and act a lot like the familiar Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) of North America, but are a little smaller and slightly different colored. Shortly after it caught this big fish, the heron let it go or it somehow managed to escape—maybe they have a catch-and-release policy at this location.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) have a look that is so unusual and distinctive that I can now recognize them almost instantaneously. I am fortunate to have the chance to travel to Brussels, Belgium a couple of times a year for work and one of my favorite places to visit here is the botanical gardens of Brussels. There is a small pond at the botanical gardens that always has an assortment of birds, and I was delighted to spot this beautiful Egyptian Goose swimming in the pond yesterday, my day of arrival in this historic city. I have seen an Egyptian Goose at this location a couple of times in the past, but the lack of surprise did not diminish at all my excitement at seeing this exotic species.

As their name suggests, Egyptian Geese are native to the Nile River area and sub-Saharan Africa, but there are now established breeding populations in parts of Europe and even in the United States. According to information in Wikipedia, Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork. They have been raised for food and extensively bred in parts of Africa since they were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians, although I suspect that they are viewed in Europe as primarily an ornamental bird.

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On the day of my arrival in Brussels, Belgium for a short business trip, I went for a short walk in the botanical garden, one of my favorite spots to visit in this city. It is within walking distance of my hotel and is one of the few places where I know I can find a taste of nature in the crowed inner city area of Brussels.

Initially I noted only a few mallard ducks and moorhens in the small pond at the botanical garden, but when I looked more closely, I spotted a couple of spectacularly-colored ducks sleeping in a remote corner. I wasn’t sure what they were, but that did not deter me from taking some photos of them. When I went searching on the internet for the species of ducks in Brussels, none of them seemed to match the ones that I had seen. So I switched to searching using more descriptive terms and discovered that the birds were not ducks, but were in fact geese—Egyptian Geese.

As their name suggests, Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) are native to the Nile River area and sub-Saharan Africa. There are now established breeding populations in parts of Europe and even in the United States.

I took this photo with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot camera that I usually take with me when I travel. As you can see from this image, the camera is capable of capturing a pretty good amount of detail and color.

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this odd-looking bird yesterday at the Botanical Garden in Brussels, I couldn’t make my mind up if it was a duck or a goose. It seemed too big to be a duck, but its markings seemed too colorful for a goose.

After a lot of searching on the internet, I have concluded this is probably an Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca). As its name suggests, this species is native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley and is an introduced species in Europe, according to Wikipedia. There are in excess of 250 breeding pairs in Belgium, primarily around Brussels and the Flanders area, according to a posting on birdforum.net.

This bird did not hang around for very long, so I did not have a chance to see if, as The Bangles famously sang, it walked like an Egyptian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv6tuzHUuuk).

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The most colorful dragonfly that I have spotted in Brussels during this trip has been a spectacular male Migrant Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna mixta) that was flying patrols over a small pond at the botanical garden.  It spent a lot of time in the air, but occasionally would perch for a short while. Every now it then it would hover over the water, which let me capture the second shot of the dragonfly in flight. My Canon SX50 is a little slow in acquiring focus, so I didn’t think that I would be able to capture any action shots of the dragonfly. However, I kept trying and eventually was able to get a reasonably sharp shot. When I checked out the shooting data for the image, I realized that the shutter speed had dropped to 1/100 second because of the dark water, so it’s almost a miracle that I stopped the action at all—I was shooting in aperture priority mode and was letting the camera choose the shutter speed.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I spotted a red dragonfly in flight while exploring the botanical garden in Brussels, I immediately gave chase. Unfortunately the dragonfly chose to perch on a weathered wooden fence a good distance away. Unable to get any closer to the dragonfly, I did my best to incorporate the fence into the composition.

I kept looking later in the day for the elusive red dragonfly, which looks a little like the Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly that I see in my home area, but I never saw it again.

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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